Chandan Dangi, October 11, 2004
Gairsain was in the TV News Channels captions since Oct. 02, 2004. The print media did follow its coverage subsequently, following the deteriorating health conditions of two fasting activists of Uttarakhand Mahila Manch – Dr. Uma Bhatt and Smt. Dhooma Devi.
How does media collect information from Gairsain, which is the centre of action and not accessible by phone (STD has been deactivated since Oct. 4), disconnected by road from Karnaprayag due to a minor landslide near Simli. One has to really visit Gairsain to know the ground reality.
On Oct. 8, it was reported that both the starving activists were arrested. But, the reality was that the police force could not identify Dr. Uma Bhatt and instead arrested Puja Mehra from the Ramlila Ground, Gairsain, where the MANCH is holding mission permanent capital of the state at Gairsain and fasting unto death.
To know what was going on there, I went to Gairsain on Oct. 9, reached Gairsain through Haldwani-Ranikhet-Dwarahat-Bhikyasain at 11PM. There were about 10-15 activists on the spot. Shri Rajendra Dhasmana, human right activist and media expert was with me. So, we met Smt. Dhooma Devi at Sushila Tewary hospital at Haldwani and heard her statement and the hardship and humiliation by AAPKI MITRA UA police before and after her arrest.
On Oct. 10, at 6 AM, as I woke-up, over 100 strong police force was heading their way to the DHARNA ground. The activists made a quick announcement by the loudspeaker and appealed to the people, including the media personnel who had reached there to avoid repetition of what happened on Mujaffarnagar in 1994 and also the human rights violation of democratic way of protesting by them. One policeman hit the electric wire connecting the stage. There was clear indication of aggression and his action was uncalled for. Another arrested Dr. Sekhar Pathak who was taking photograph and had come to see the condition of his wife Umaji.
SDM-Chamoli, Mr. Uday S Rana and Co. Commandant K R Bhatt forced their way to arrest Dr. Uma Bhatt. They could not get entry amid strong protest. The situation could be saved by intervention of Press and eminent people who had come from Delhi, Lucknow, Nainital, Dehradun and Almora. SDM Rana was requested to send back the police back to their Cantt. Which is really a scene to be seen at Gairsain.
There were abt. 10 policewomen who in the meantime, kept trying to make their entry for Dr. Bhatt’s arrest and failed. Co. Comt. Bhatt once again tried and was thrown away by Puja Mehra and others.
Finally at 7:40, amid shouting slogans against NDTewary, RS Tolia, DM Ajay Nabiyal and police SP of Chamoli Ashok Tamta (reportedly coming drunken to arrest Dhooma Devi on Friday) the Dr. Uma Bhatt was taken in an ambulance to Ranikhet.
Sh. Dharam Singh Rawat, IAS (Retd) who had sit on a hunger strike in 1986 against his own un-accountable Govt. system in Lucknow announce that the Govt. can not ignore the demands of fasting activists and decided to sit on fast till 16th of Oct., Smt. Kamla Shah, another local women also decided to sit on fast unto death. I accompanied Umaji to hospital. The story of hospitals and facilities will open yet another chapter, hence I would like to cut short by stating that Ranikhet CMO, Surgeon, and Physician referred her to Haldwani because there is no pathologist there. Three private pathologists give different reports for the same test, hence not credible.
According to Dhasmana ji, after the 2nd arrest, the agitators took out a protest rally and tried to mob the DM-Chamoli who has made his temporary H/Q at Gairsain. The rallyists came back to the venue and had meeting chaired by R S Dhasmana and attended by Dr. SS Bisht, Sh. Rajiv L Sah, Sh. D S Rawat, Mrs. Kamla Pant Sh. PC Tewari and others. University Student union leader DV Naithani also announced that they will mobilise villages to really intensify the movement.